Young Eagles face No. 1 Blake first

Rochester Lourdes has had the good fortune the last two years of meeting the best team to conclude the state boys Class A tennis tournament.

With favorable tournament draws, it made it safely to the finals in 2011 and 2012 before playing and losing to No. 1 Breck both times. Last year it was 4-3 in the finals, the year before 5-2.

There will be no such good luck for Lourdes in the 2013 state tournament. The Eagles are being tossed immediately into the oven, meeting No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Blake (13-0) in the first round at noon Tuesday at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.

The tournament concludes Wednesday, with the championship at 4 p.m.

Blake is considered by most to not just be the top team in Class A, but Minnesota's best team period. Among the Bears' wins was a 5-2 triumph over Class AA's No. 1 team, Wayzata. They also easily handled Class AA power Edina, 6-1.


Blake last won a state championship in 2010. It's a heavy favorite to win another one this week.

All of that said, Lourdes refuses to take a shaky or already-beaten attitude into its first-round match. Instead, Eagles coach Steve Tacl is demanding the opposite approach.

"I like being the underdog," Tacl said. "You have to embrace that role. It will be awfully difficult to win. We have to compete and be fearless and play with a lot of energy. We can give them nothing negative by us to feed off of.

"I told our players that they should compete their tails off Tuesday. If Blake doesn't come with the same approach, it might be interesting."

Worth noting is that Lourdes is plenty respected, too, and not just traditionally. It enters the tournament unbeaten (12-0) and ranked third in the state, behind Blake and Breck.

"We see this as a challenge; we're not afraid of them," said No. 2 doubles player Nick Hebert, who along with No. 2 singles man Alan Schembri-Wismayer are Lourdes' only seniors.

"Most of the guys on our team have played against teams like this. But to beat them, you have to have the right mindset, and not give up no matter what."

If Lourdes doesn't have enough to compete with the best this year, it sure might in the following two years. The Eagles are incredibly young, led by a large group of talented sophomores.


Eight of the team's top 13 players are sophomores. That includes No. 1 singles player David Turlington.

So, even if Lourdes falls short of pulling off a large upset Tuesday, it will be gaining invaluable state-tournament experience.

"It's been fun to see these young guys grow up and improve," Tacl said. "There is an opportunity for us to gear up and make a run (in future years).

"But we're not thinking about that right now. We want to win now."

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